February 03, 2007

When Ulster Sat With Israel

The throngs of tourists passing Big Ben are unaware of the tunnel beneath their feet, which connects the parliamentary committee rooms in Portcullis House to the British House of Commons. When the division bells ring, members of parliament sprint along the passage to cast their votes in the chamber. It was in one of those committee rooms last Thursday evening that a group of MPs met with foreign lawmakers to discuss boycott, divestment and the indictment of a sovereign nation with the arrest of its officials for breach of international law.

One might be forgiven for thinking ‘this has to be Israel’. But no. On this occasion, it was Israel which had called the meeting and its keynote speaker was no less than former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The subject was Iran and its fanatical leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Netanyahu introduced the plan of a group of jurists to indict the Iranian leader under Article 25(3) (e) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which outlaws incitement to commit Genocide. Moreover, to issue proceedings under Article 2(4) of the UN charter which forbids a member state from making statements threatening the use of force on another state.

Netanyahu recounted the rabid threats made by the Iranian leader, saying that the regime was just 1,000 days away from deployment of a nuclear weapon. In recasting his Mossad chief’s 3-year assessment into days, Netanyahu emphasised that every day counts in the elimination of a nuclear menace that is as much a threat to European cities as it is to Israel. He said that if Iran is not stopped, nuclear weapons will quickly proliferate through the entire Middle East. “If the world allows the Middle East to become a powder keg, take it from me, it WILL explode’. To emphasise that threat, he mentioned having met a British MP a few moments before who remarked: ‘Iran is turning itself into a global suicide bomber’.

Netanyahu went on to say that UN sanctions, whilst welcome as a first step, were not tough enough. He said that governments and major corporations worldwide could make a much stronger economic impact on the rogue regime by heeding a call to ‘divest from genocide’.

The next speaker was Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Public Affairs and - like Netanyahu - a former ambassador to the United Nations. Gold recalled the international community’s string of failures in preventing the genocide of European Jewry, Bosnians, Tutsis and now the Sudanese in Darfur. He stressed that the post-war Genocide Convention was formulated by the International Court of Justice to ‘prevent’ genocide, not merely to punish its perpetrators after the fact. Gold is the author of ‘Tower of Babblein which he criticises the UN for fuelling global chaos. He recalled Kofi Annan’s statement on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide: “We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless men women and children who perished in Rwanda. Such crimes cannot be repaired. The dead cannot be brought back to life, so what can we do? Ambassador Gold offered an answer to Annan’s rhetorical question. To heed the early warning signs of genocide emanating from Teheran and thereby fulfil the UN’s prime duty to prevent the perpetration of genocide.

Knesset Law & Justice Committee member Dan Naveh weighed in with his own personal account as the son of Holocaust survivors who fled their hometown of Bratislava. Their Slovak neighbors persuaded some Jews to stay, saying: ‘Why pay attention to the ravings of a madman?’ Naveh said that those who failed to take Hitler’s threats seriously all perished.

The most forceful of the speakers was Dr. Irwin Cotler, a Canadian parliamentarian and former Justice Minister. In a withering attack on Iran’s mullocracy, Cotler said that an international arrest warrant had now been issued for its former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and eight of his officials for the planning, funding and perpetration of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. 85 people died in the rubble of the 7-storey building and 300 were injured. Cotler called for Ahmadinejad and his officials to be put on a ‘watch list’ to be arrested at airports and other international transit points. “The legal framework is already in place,” he declared, “all that is needed is the political will.

At Netanyahu’s side was a powerful parliamentarian at least as well-known in the UK as Bibi is in Israel. Nobel peace prize-winner Lord Trimble was appointed First Minister of Northern Ireland after the ‘Good Friday’ peace accords. David Trimble’s Ulster Unionist Party was opposed to the Irish Republican Army’s campaign for a united Ireland free of British rule and came to prominence by joining the fiery Protestant leader Ian Paisley in an ‘Orange Order’
march through Republican strongholds in County Armagh. Trimble spoke forcefully in support of the jurists’ initiative and urged lobby groups to bring pressure on their governments to take action against Ahmadinejad.

As the co-chairmen answered questions I found the scene quite warming. Jerusalem and Ulster sitting side-by-side. I thought of how many times I had heard parallels drawn between the Irish troubles and those in Israel? A struggle between two religious groups, the common element of British rule, car bombs and targeted killings and yes, the eternal dispute over historical claims to the land. Even the loathsome Ken Livingstone feted IRA leaders just as he now embraces Jihadist clerics as London’s mayor.

So much in common but so very different. Because for all those coincidences between the conflicts, it is a fact that never during the centuries-old struggle was any part of Ireland ever threatened with total annihilation. Until that fundamental distinction is fully appreciated, we will continue to suffer the fools who believe that the square peg of Irish peace can be hammered into the round and bottomless hole of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Trimble the Ulsterman is a realist and also a member of the Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson Society. The late US congressman was a fierce opponent of détente with the repressive Soviet regime and advocated the maintenance by the world’s leading democracies of strong military capabilities with the means and will to protect freedom wherever it is under threat. I found this quote by Trimble’s biographer in a publication of Dore Gold’s own Jerusalem Institute for Public Affairs:

"However, the British government does not put Palestinian terrorism or Northern Irish terrorism into that category. The British state is well-nigh unique in advertising, quite openly, that it does not really mind if it is dismembered. To ensure the IRA's abandonment of violence, the British will maintain the pace of concessions, at least for as long as the Unionists are prepared to tolerate them. In recent years, PLO flags and large wall murals of Arafat can be seen in Catholic-Republican neighborhoods, while Unionist-Protestant zones are covered with Israeli flags. In fact, Northern Ireland is one of the very few parts of Europe where there is a very wide measure of popular support in the majority community for the State of Israel. "

An unlikely affinity, but an important alliance in the war against Islamic terror and the means to stop the global suicide bomber in his tracks.

[This article first appeared in the Jewish Press]

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